With COVID-19 cases on rise, is your business prepared?

By Kiljon Shukullari

Law360 Canada (September 28, 2023, 2:39 PM EDT) --
Kiljon Shukullari
Kiljon Shukullari
Recent data suggests that Canada may be on the verge of a resurgence in COVID-19 cases this fall. In recent weeks, there has been a noticeable increase in COVID-19 cases, accompanied by a rise in virus-related hospitalizations.

Despite a previous decline in the percentage of positive COVID-19 cases since spring, recent figures indicate a reversal of this trend. Hospitalizations have increased by approximately 11 per cent in the span of a week, and as of mid-August, over 1,700 hospital beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients.

In addition to these developments, Canada has identified a highly mutated new variant known as BA.2.86, which is raising concerns about the potential resurgence of COVID-19 and its potential severity.

It’s essential for businesses to have comprehensive plans in place to ensure the safety of their staff and to mitigate the spread of illness within the workplace.

The risks are compounded not only by colder weather but also by the return of children to school and the increasing number of employees returning to the office. It’s the employer's responsibility to keep staff safe. So, what can employers do to protect their employees and curb the spread of COVID-19 within the office environment?

Now is the right time to revisit and revise your emergency preparedness plan, and for businesses that have not yet established one, it's imperative to do so. Employees should establish well-defined policies to effectively address the potential resurgence of the virus and any other disruptions that could impact business operations in the future.

Once these policies have been created or updated, they must be communicated to all employees. These policies should provide clear outlines of essential emergency functions, associated responsibilities and guidelines for employee check-in procedures. The greater the detail in these policies, the easier it will be for everyone to understand their roles and responsibilities. Ultimately, teamwork is the key to maintaining safety.

Employers must also establish and consistently communicate protocols for managing employees displaying COVID-19 symptoms and those who test positive. It’s paramount that businesses prioritize the safety of their employees. This entails implementing flexible work arrangements, adhering to strict hygiene protocols and conducting testing, as necessary. Effective communication, well-thought-out emergency response plans and the availability of employee assistance programs all play vital roles in ensuring the well-being of staff.

By embracing these strategies and adhering to best practices, organizations can effectively navigate the challenges presented by the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Kiljon Shukullari is human resources advisory manager at Peninsula Canada.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the author’s firm, its clients, Law360 Canada, LexisNexis Canada, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

Photo credit / Korakrich Suntornnites

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